This online shopping powerhouse has staked its claim on a large portion of the book market for a reason: our review research found Amazon to offer the largest selection of books, combined with the lowest prices, of all the online bookstores we reviewed.
Amazon shows a running tally of how many items it has available for purchase in each category. On the day we checked its selection, Amazon had over 22 million new books, over 24 million used books and over 1 million collectible books – numbers that far surpass any other online bookstore we reviewed. As part of our review process, we also compared ten New York Times bestselling-books in print, ebook, and audio formats, and Amazon was the only site to carry each book in every format (Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million tied for a very close second in this category). To really top it off, Amazon’s prices were consistently the lowest, just barely beating out Barnes & Noble for bragging rights once again.
Besides the low prices, purchasing a $99.00 Amazon Prime membership can also save you money. It’s most cost-effective for families, because up to four family members in the same household can share the membership for no additional fees. Amongst other benefits, the membership offers free two-day shipping, monthly borrowing from the Kindle Owners Lending Library and free monthly ebook downloads through Kindle First.
Amazon offers all the features you would expect from an online bookstore, including basic search, advanced search, browse by category, both editorial and user reviews and the option to save wishlist items for later reference. In addition, Amazon offers more support options than any of the other online bookstores we reviewed: you can browse frequently-asked questions, chat with a support representative online, email a query or submit your phone number and wait for a call back.
We were pleased to learn that Amazon invests in both sustainable and community-based charitable causes. For example, Amazon has donated Kindle devices and ebooks to elementary schools, funded several disaster relief campaigns and supported children’s organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs, Little League, Toys for Tots, Girls Inc. and Make-a-Wish Foundation. Amazon also ships most of its orders in environmentally-friendly packaging, implements energy-efficient distribution and shipping practices, and operates out of a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold-certified headquarters in Seattle. LEED certifications are awarded by the US Green Building Council in recognition of buildings that “save money and resources and have a positive impact on the health of occupants, while promoting renewable, clean energy.”
If you opt to become a loyal ebook buyer on Amazon, you’ll want to use one of Amazon’s Kindle ereader devices. You can read KF8, MOBI and AZW ebook file formats on a Kindle, but if you want to read other formats, like an ePub, you’ll need to either convert the file or download a different reader app onto your Kindle. This means you’ll spend extra time converting files or end up with separate libraries to toggle between, either of which will make your reading experience a little less efficient and convenient.
We did notice that Amazon doesn’t accept PayPal as a form of purchase. PayPal is one of the most common forms of online payment these days and Amazon’s failure to offer it as an option seems like a silly oversight – except that PayPal happens to be owned by eBay, which is a major competitor of Amazon’s (well played, Amazon). However, Amazon does accept all major credit cards, and even some of the less-popular credit cards, so you’ll still have plenty of ways to pay.
Amazon has also gotten into some legal trouble over its business practices. In 2013, Amazon paid a penalty of $455,000 to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for an injunction that was filed alleging that Amazon violated the Textile Fiber Products Identification Act. Specifically, the FTC cited Amazon for advertising products as “100% organic bamboo,” “100% bamboo knit” or other similar claims while simultaneously advertising that the products did in fact contain other fiber content.
In July 2014, the FTC filed another injunction against Amazon, this time alleging that millions of dollars in unauthorized charges incurred by children were billed to account holders anyway. This is in violation of an FTC Act stating that a “business’ practices are unfair if they cause substantial injury to consumers that consumers themselves cannot reasonably avoid.” The main issue in question is Amazon’s games and apps, which often encourage the purchasing of virtual items by billing a user’s account – however, there are no password requirements or other protections in place to keep users’ children from approving charges without parental consent. If Amazon is found guilty, it will have to refund several million dollars obtained from in-game and in-app purchases, as well as put protections in place to prevent billing to any user’s account without consent.